June 30, 2016
In a small community in Tegucigalpa, small houses dot a dusty, treeless hill. Most of the year, the sun beats down; during the rainy season, drops of rain soak the ground until streams of water pour down the hill.
Despite the unforgiving weather, every Sunday, almost one hundred children and adults gather together at the soccer field to watch the local league play. The league is made up of 12 teams of at least 11 members each, ranging in age anywhere from 12 to 60 years old.
In this community, which has one of the highest homicide rates in Tegucigalpa, there are few public spaces where men and women and people of all ages can safely gather together. This soccer field is one of them; but in the heat of the sun or the pounding rain, the games aren’t always very comfortable for spectators.
Fourteen-year-old Fabiola* (*name changed for security), the president of one of the Association for a More Just Society’s three youth projects in the community, decided to get her group of 25 children and young teenagers to do something about this. Together with the local soccer league and members of the community, the AJS youth club constructed covered stands to shield spectators from the sun and rain.
A ninth-grader at a local public school, Fabiola said this was a way for young people to give back to their community.
“There is nowhere to sit, if you sit on the edge of the field you’re in the sun,” she said, “This project isn’t just going to help us, but also the whole community.”
AJS’s youth clubs have deeply impacted Fabiola, “The group for me is like my third family,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about God. I also like to help other people and feel at home,” she added, paintbrush in hand, covering one of the stands’ wooden columns in a bright turquoise blue.
AJS’s community projects seek to instill values in children particularly vulnerable to involvement in crime or unhealthy relationships. One of those values is citizenship, which is why every youth club does regular community projects to improve their local communities. Youth clubs work together to plan the project, arrange materials, and gather volunteers.
Francisco, president of the local soccer league, was thrilled to pitch in and help with construction, seeing the stands as a positive benefit for community members who come together to watch the games.
“We’re grateful because no one has been interested in helping us before. This is something that we have to value,” he said, looking out at the packed-earth field. “We also have to collaborate.”
In 2015, over 350 children participated in youth clubs in communities in the capital with the highest rates of homicide. In two years, another 350 children will graduate from the program, successfully joining society as citizens ready to help their neighbors and work for a more just society.